Real Estate Tip of the Month: Refinancing Your Mortgage

If you remember our recent article discussing homeowner’s and their regrets on not completing a refinance on their mortgage, then it might be a good time to dive into what a refinance is and how you go about the process.

What is a refinance?

A mortgage refinance replaces your current home loan with a new one – usually this is done to reduce the interest rate, cut monthly payments, tap into the home’s equity, rid of FHA mortgage insurance, or switch from an adjustable-rate to a fixed-rate loan.

How do you start a refinance?

Just like signing for the original loan, you’ll have to qualify for a refinance, file an application, go through the underwriting process, and go to closing – just like you did when you bought the home originally.

Work with same lender or new lender?

If you’re curious how a refinance might look for you, check out NerdWallet’s mortgage refinance calculator before you talk with a lender. Seeing the cost through a calculator might help you determine which lender might offer you the best deal on a refinance.

Mentioned in our previous article on refinancing, many homeowners incorrectly believe that they have to refinance with their current lender, which isn’t true. Like all of our guides on shopping for a mortgage, the same applies for a refinance. Shop, compare, and find the best lender for you.

For more real estate tips and guides, stop by Alliance Title’s Blog.

Real Estate Vocabulary for First-Time Homebuyers

Congratulations – you’re in the arena to purchase your first ever home! That in itself is an amazing accomplishment.

Because you’re a first-time homebuyer, there will be a lot of real estate vocabulary that you might not be totally familiar with. But don’t fret! This is where we come in to help.

Check out some of the top real estate vocabulary to familiarize yourself with:

  • Adjustable-rate Mortgage: After a period of time that could be anywhere from three to 10 years, the interest rate on an adjustable rate mortgage will be adjusted by the lender in accordance with current interest rates.
  • Annual Percentage Rate: These are also known as an APR. This is the standardized method of showing you the total cost of borrowing money. This will be a combination of the interest rate charged by your creditor, in addition to any fees you may be charged for.
  • Appraisal: These are professional opinions of the market value of a property. Appraisers use a number of methods to determine the appropriate value of the home, including the current market value and seeing what prices homes nearby sold for.
  • Closing Costs: These fees will come up after the completion of a sale. They may be related to insurance fees, survey fees, or attorney fees and will vary from location to location.
  • Fixed-rate Mortgage: This mortgage’s interest rate will never change – even if the term of the loan is 30 years.
  • Title Insurance: This policy protects a lender’s or owner’s interest in real estate property from assorted types of unexpected claims of ownership.

Understanding real estate terminology can help arm you with the knowledge and confidence needed to make the best decisions for you!

Check out Alliance’s Buyer-Seller Guide for more information and tips!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Working on Real Estate Bios

When a buyer or seller is on the search to find a real estate agent, don’t be the one to fall into the loud mesh and not been seen! There are a lot of real estate agents out there – how can you stand out from the crowd?

Your bio on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or Blog is a great way to separate yourself from the Plain Janes in the real estate world! What you write about yourself can really make a big impact to the audience you’re trying to reach.

Here are some quick tips to up your real estate game:

The Lead

Be sure to introduce what brought you into this industry, how long you’ve been helping clients, and some of the goals you’ve accomplished since becoming an agent!

The Action

You should be telling your clients why you’re a good fit for them – yes, you’re the number one real estate in the area, but be sure to be specific about what you do!

Talk about what you love about your work, the clients you help, and your goals as an agent. Mention the clients you’ve helped purchase or sell homes for; are they retirees, first-time homebuyers, or newlyweds?

The Personal

It’s important to be relatable. Write about something quirky or unique about you – maybe your favorite sports team, your favorite hobby, what you’re passionate about. Show potential clients that you’re more than a real estate agent – you can be someone they connect with as they go on to purchase or sell their home.

You are YOUR brand – so be sure to use your voice in the way that highlights the best you!

How to Allergy-Proof Your Home

It’s about that time – spring allergy time! If you’ve started to notice the sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, then it’s about time you notice that there’s something you can do to help!

Your home contains allergens that make you feel like spring is against you. But, as a homeowner, it’s important that you learn the ways you can help clean and de-allergen your home. Check out our tips below:

Vacuum

Dust settles, and dust carries a lot of those allergens that annoy you! If you can, try and upgrade with a vacuum that includes a HEPA filter. These trap particles as tiny as.3 microns, which means they’ll get rid of most of the allergens in your home.

Air Filters

Don’t forget to replace the filters in your heating and cooling system. Check out our previous article that dives into it!

Microfiber Cloths

As mentioned before, dust is a true allergy culprit! Instead of just brushing dust away with a towel or a duster, try and use a damp microfiber cloth. These will trap the dust instead of moving them around.

Wash Bed Sheets

Be sure to wash your pillow cases and sheets every 3 weeks.

Air Purifier

Indoor air is twice as polluted as outdoor air with all the dust, mold, and chemicals that stay in an enclosed space over time. If you can, think about investing in an air purifier. Make sure it uses a HEPA filter (like mentioned for the vacuum).

Allergies can be a real downer! But if you work hard at maintaining your home during the spring and summer months, you’ll feel the benefits!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Fighting Cybercrime

Cybercrime is scary – and with one of the fastest growing cybercrimes in the U.S. being wire fraud in real estate, Alliance Title has stepped their game up to better protect your transactions.

According to FBI data, there were more than $221 million in losses back in 2019.Wire fraud is a serious thing, so it’s important that we take this cybercrime seriously.

To protect you and your assets, Alliance has partnered with CertifID – the nation’s leading wire fraud prevention solution.

CertifID adds an additional level of security to your transactions. Let’s show you how it works:

  • Your escrow agent will send you your wiring information through CertifID.
  • CertifID confirms your identity and receipt of wiring details with security questions and two-factor authentication.
  • Parties will receive confirmation that the transaction is guaranteed by CertifID.
Image from CertifID

This process helps protect all parties involved by insuring that closing funds are safely transferred and received. Every CertifID transaction is backed by a $1,000 guarantee, at no cost to you.

For more on CertifID, check out their introductory video.

Homeowners & The Important Maintenance Skills

When you finally become a homeowner – it’s a dream come true! But the honeymoon period can fade away as soon as something needs repairing in your home. Usually, as a renter, you’d call your landlord to solve the issue.

Now, the landlord is you.

Don’t fret! One of the best things about becoming a homeowner is learning all the maintenance skills you’ll need to save money and keep your home running in perfect order.

Check out our maintenance tips below:

Shutting Off Your Water

One of the highest causes of damages to a home is water – so knowing where to shut off your water is a top priority. You can ask your home inspector, a plumber, or an acquaintance with construction experience to show you where the main water valve is in your home. Being able to quickly turn off your main water line can save you thousands of dollars, if a leak ever springs!

Changing Your Air Filters

Air filters can greatly help diminish dust and allergens. Changing filters depends on who’s living in your home – if you don’t have pets, it’s suggested that you change your air filters every 3-6 months. If pets are in the home, you should change it every 30-90 days for the best results. You can usually see what size of air filters you need by taking out the old filter (the size should be printed on it).

Cleaning Your Gutters

One of the worst things you can do is let your gutters clog up! Clogged gutters could potentially mean water running down sides of your home, leading to rot. Clean gutters every year, or twice, if you have overhanging trees. Make sure to wear gloves!

Fixing a Leaky Faucet

The sound of “drip, drip, drip” enough to drive you crazy? Leaky faucets can be a quick fix for homeowners. Be sure to have an Allen wrench, needle-nose pliers, tongue-and-groove pliers, and a screwdriver. Check out the detailed guide, here.

Stopping a Running Toilet

Yes, your refrigerator is running – but your toilet shouldn’t! A “running” toilet is not only annoying, but it also racks up your energy bills. For a detailed step-by-step action on how to fix a running toilet, check out This Old House’s guide here.

Being a homeowner isn’t always glamorous. But the maintenance and home improvement tips you learn will help you become an expert homeowner!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Understanding Real Estate Commission

There can be some confusion when it comes to how a real estate agent is paid – and some buyers and sellers might not work with an agent, simply because they don’t know how the agent’s commission works!

This is where we jump in! Check out our guide below on how to better understand a real estate commission and your part in it.

How Much

Real estate agents only earn money when a real estate deal has been completed and finalized. Some agents charge a flat fee for their work, or some charge a percentage of the sales price of the home once the deal is finished. The percentage would vary, but the commission is typically 5-6% of the home’s final sales price.

For example, on a $300,000 home, a 6% commission would be $18,000.

Don’t panic – while that might seem like a huge number, it’s usually split up into different parties. That, and an agent won’t receive any sort of payment until the buyer and seller both agree and meet at the closing table.

Who Pays

Surprise! Usually, the seller pays the full commission for their listing (seller) agent and the buyer’s agent. Remember that $18,000 number above? The seller and buyer agents usually split that, with each receiving $9,000. This equal split in commission might vary, however, depending on the agents.

What Commission Covers

Basically, the commission covers all of the hard work the agent did to help sell or purchase your home. An agent helps you price homes, market on social media and the multiple listing service, negotiate with buyers, and help bring the home sale through to closing. And they should, most definitely, help take off some of the stress from your shoulders.

When You Sign the Contract

When you’ve decided on a real estate agent, you’ll receive a contract (usually referred to as a listing agreement) where you can read all the details about their specific commission rate. Be sure to read this contract in its entirety before signing – that way you have full confidence in the services you’re paying for.

For more real estate tips and tricks, stop by Alliance Title’s Blog for more.

What is a Construction Loan?

Usually, when you purchase a home, you need some sort of mortgage to help pay for it (these are usually standard mortgages). However, if you’re ahem – building a home from scratch, these sort of “standard mortgages” might not be the best thing to help you.

Rather than standard, you might need a construction loan. But what’s a construction loan? Read on to find out more!

A construction loan is short-term or temporary financing that is paid (usually) through a serious of installments as the building of your home continues to progress.

Because, technically, no home exists, these types of loans can be considered a tad riskier. The lender doesn’t have any sort of collateral, so you’ll usually need to make a bigger down payment of at least 20%. But, while your home is under construction, you will make interest-only payments until the home is completed.

When you apply for the loan, you’ll need to make sure you have each and every detail of your home construction in place before you apply.

Finding a lender is another hurdle you’ll have to jump. You could potentially ask your contractors for a recommendation; that way you know your lender has plenty of experience with this type of loan. A lender will also help guide the borrower through the process, as well as make sure your timeline stays on track.

Just like the “standard mortgages” – there are multiple types of construction loans. You’ll need to talk with your real estate team to determine which would fit your project best.

For more on construction loans, check out Rocket Mortgage’s article.

Stop by Alliance Title’s blog for more real estate guides and tips.

Guide to Hiring a Real Estate Agent

Purchasing or selling a home can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you do it on your own.

If you’ve been wondering – or planning – on how you can go about hiring a real estate agent, Alliance Title’s Buyer-Seller Guide will provide you with some quick tips and valuable information that can help jump start your home selling or purchasing process! We’ve got your back.

Hiring a real estate agent might seem scary, but it doesn’t have to be! You want an agent that can guide you through the entire process and help you feel confident and comfortable. Check out our steps to finding a real estate agent below:

Step One: Understanding Agent Associations  

All REALTORS® and Real Estate Agents are required to be licensed by the state to represent buyers and sellers in property transfers.

A Realtor® is a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, which means that he or she must uphold the standards of the association and its code of ethics.

Step Two: Following Your Requirements

You’ll want to hire an agent who is familiar with your community or the neighborhood you are wanting to move to. Think about asking these questions when looking for a real estate agent partner:

  • Do you mostly work with home buyers or sellers?
  • Are you able to be reached on various platforms – email, text messaging, etc.?
  • Are you a member of the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?
  • Are you able to provide local real estate market trends, values, and statistics?

Step Three: Know the Who’s and the What’s

  • The seller is represented by the listing agent
  • The buyer is represented by the selling agent
  • The selling agent is also referred to as the buyer’s agent

A real estate agent can guide your transaction and aid in your understanding of the real estate process. Check out Alliance Title’s Blog for more guides and tips!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Extra Costs

If you’re a real estate agent, it would be in your best interest to help and guide your clients to fully understand all of the fees that are associated with owning a home, so your clients feel prepared and ready for the transaction.

A recent report from LendEDU (an online marketplace for financial products and advice), found that 55% of homeowners regret taking out a mortgage during the pandemic. Of the homeowners who are experiencing regret, 30% wish they waited to purchase a home for financial reasons and another 7% of new homeowners said they were not prepared for homeownership.

While these fees will vary from person to person and state to state, it’s important to clarify the costs on the table so they don’t feel misled.

Inspection Fees

While these aren’t required, they are highly recommended in the industry. An average inspection may cost anywhere from $300 to $500. Inspections can help uncover any problems with the home and prevent more costly repairs in the future.  

Closing Costs

Financial experts recommend setting aside 2-5% of the purchase price for closing costs, and they must be available on closing day. This fee covers a variety of things, like notary services, title company search fees, attorney expenses, real estate transfer taxes, insurance premiums, and more. These will vary by state and property.

Maintenance Costs

It is recommended to put aside 1% of a home’s value per year for any unexpected maintenance expenses. For example, a $300,000 home would mean budgeting $3,000.

Moving Costs

While this might be the last thing on your client’s mind, moving adds up too. If they’re planning to hire a moving company or renting a truck, they’ll want to allocate this into their upcoming expenses.

As a real estate agent, you’ll need to remind them to speak with their lender and bank to fully understand their financial planning. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t help guide them on some of the upcoming fees associated with purchasing a home.

For more real estate tips and tricks, stop by Alliance Title’s Blog!